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Relais Chateaux Hotel
Sant´ Agata Due Golfi – Campania
By Margaux Cintrano
Photos & Translation Courtesy: Davide Ricciardielli unless otherwise stated *
Amazingly possessing a most picturesque legendary background, handed down for generations, Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890, is situated in the enchanting village of Sant´ Agata Due Golfi, on the Sorrentine Peninsula, with breathtakingly stunning views of the Isle of Capri, in a 19th century Neapoletan Campania, Relais Chateaux Boutique Hotel, upon the unspoilt virgin fertile lands on the Gulf Coast where Don Alfonso Iacccarino, Executive Chef Ernesto Iaccarino and their team of chefs collect the day´s farm to table and sea to table cuisine and teach and coach culinary artists to become topnotch chefs at their Culinary Institute on the premises.
Margaux : Where were you born and raised?
Chef Ernesto : I was born and raised on the Sorrentine Coast. At the age of 18 I relocated to Naples to attend University.
Margaux: What and who were the catalysts in motivating and inspiring you to study the culinary arts?
Chef Ernesto: My family has been in the restaurant business since 1890, and I was taught by my grandfather and then my father “first how to eat, and then how to cook.”
Since I was a child, my family had prepared me and taught me about the quality of the raw materials, ingredients and the basis of fine Italian regional cuisine. For example, about the varying types of tomatoes. They told me, “a tomato is not just a tomato. There are a wide variety of tomatoes, and they are a profound part of the Italian Culture.”. They also instilled in me how to use which tomatoes in what dishes. In a fresh pasta for example, Vesuviani tomatoes are the best variety. If I am making a tomato sauce or a Ragu, the best tomato is the San Mariano. If you are creating a Caprese Salad, or a tomato salad, then the most tasty variety is the Cuore di Bue tomato.
I had learnt from the ground up about our lands and our raw materials. Our land is dotted with lemon groves, vineyards and olive trees. Using fresh produce, I have been creating deceptively simple Mediterranean delicacies since I was a child.
Margaux: Absolutely fascinating. What is the degree of importance that you bring to the dressage of food styling and presentation of the dishes served to the client?
Chef Ernesto: The dressage is quintessential, however we also believe that the most important thing about a dish is the taste. I believe that the most memorable thing we have about a dish is how it tastes. With this in mind, I create the unforgettable.
Margaux : Surely an excellent point. When working on a new seasonal array of dishes, what is your creative process in terms of dressage? Do you sketch the presentations? Do you research? Which tools do you employ? Books, websites, design magazines?
Chef Ernesto: As mentioned, food styling dressage is absolutely quintessential. However, the quality of the ingredients that we use is the most relevant. The research is based on the highest quality available for the ingredients, both local and foreign.
Margaux: Tell us about what has been your most important gastronomic trip and why?
Chef Ernesto: My most important gastronomic trip of 2013 was Japan. There, I had really seen how the Japanese treat their ingredients and respect their food. Japan is a country where the quality of the products is very highly appreciated and honored.
Margaux: Do you have any plans for 2015 in regard to gastronomic travel?
Chef Ernesto: I am planning a trip to Peru and Chile this year to research new ingredients for my restaurant. After, the discovery of the potato, the tomato, and the peppers which arrived in Europe in the 1500s, I would like to have the same success as my predecessors.
Margaux : Quite interesting. Tell us about the culinary philosophy of Ristorante Don Alfonso 1890.
Chef Ernesto: At our restaurant, we do modern Italian regional cuisine at the same time maintaining its identity. We want to respect our tradition, our roots, and our culture. The usage of organic extra virgin olive oil, and the organic vegetables that come from our organic farm facing the Isle of Capri are the key ingredients of our cooking. This is our way of eating.
Furthermore, we respect the biodiversity worldwide and the exceptional ingredients of the Amazon and Peru, for example. We want to give these indigenous peoples, the chance to farm and providing them with employment and incomes so they can keep growing the ingredients, or they shall be lost.
*Chef Ernesto Iaccarino’s photo: www.relaischateaux.com/
*Kyoto Myoshin Temple by Tomomarusan, GNU Free Documentation License, cropped
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